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Challenging EU Presidency ahead for New Danish Government

Submitted by on 06 Oct 2011 – 11:36

Emilie Turunen, MEP, Vice-President Greens/EFABy Emilie Turunen, MEP, Vice-President Greens/EFA

Denmark will take over the presidency of the EU by the 1st of January 2012. Big challenges are lying ahead for the very recently elected Danish government. Five topics will be the most critical during the Danish presidency:


1.      Tackling the financial and economic crisis

2.      Moving the negotiations on the multi annual financial framework (MMF) forward

3.      Shaping up the EU for the Rio +20 summit

4.      Re-launching the single marked to enhance economic activity

5.      Improve Denmark’s relations with the EU

All points constitute important and serious challenges that will take a lot of effort from the Danish presidency.

I am convinced that Denmark will run a professional, competent and efficient presidency.  Some people might question how a newly elected government will be able to properly lead the Union but it is worth noticing that it is not the first time this has happened. Actually, it has almost become a Danish tradition that our EU-presidencies are run by recently elected government with little time to prepare.  In 1993 Mr Poul Nyrup Ramussen (former Danish PM 1993-2011) entered office at the same time as Denmark took over the presidency. In 2002, Mr. Anders Fogh Rasmussen (former Danish PM 2001-2009) had only been prime minister for around six months when he successfully led the EU through the accession process. This time, in 2012, Mrs Helle Thorning-Schmidt, newly elected PM, has just around three months to get ready for the challenging presidency.

I am convinced that Helle Thorning-Schmidt and a new Danish government, including my party (SF), will do an excellent job leading the EU. Helle Thorning-Schmidt has the great advantage that she is a former member of the European Parliament (1999-2004), she has experience of the EU and knows the game. In addition, she is backed by a strong and experienced administration. Denmark is generally well prepared and has an efficient governmental administration which has run a presidency before. The challenge for Helle Thorning-Schmidt is that she will be one of the few social-democratic leaders in the European Council and she will definitely face  major political battles here.

As mentioned in the introduction I see the following five tasks as most pressing for the Danish presidency:

1)      Financial and economic crisis: Denmark is not a member of the Euro zone but we still have a huge responsibility to push the EU forward in this severe crisis. It is no secret that the EU project is in deep crisis due to the financial and economic situation. Solidarity and solidity should go together. Right now both are falling apart. So far, the EU has relied too much on austerity and pretence. It is time to put the real economy back in the driver’s seat, to convince the markets with real and prompt action and to look for new (socially just) income sources like the financial transaction tax and common minimum level of company tax.

2)      Multi-annual Financial Framework: the challenge is to make the EU budget support the EU 2020 targets for sustainable, smart and inclusive growth and at the same time to make all the different national interests meet in a common position. All policy areas must contribute to the 2020-targets: agriculture, fisheries, science and research and regional funds must all contribute to the overall goals. The EU budget has got to be used as a driver for job creation, competitiveness and a healthy and strong economy. The MMF is an opportunity to shift the EU onto a greener and more sustainable path with stronger focus on research and development, better  infrastructure and renewable energy, leaving behind the “old fashioned” way of agricultural and industrial subsidies. Everybody wants a piece of the cake and Denmark has to balance this while keeping a strong focus on what is best  for Europe in the long run. It will be a huge task to combine narrow national interests with the overall long-term perspective for Europe.

3)      Rio +20: Denmark must play an active role in getting the EU together in a common and ambitious position. After the failure in Copenhagen at COP15 (and the failure of the poor Danish chairmanship) the world needs to see that Denmark again has an ambitious and competent government which is ready to move things forward at the global stage. The world urgently needs action to tackle climate change. The EU must be leading in this field – not only for the sake of the climate but also because it will constitute the region as a global leader when it comes to new technologies, resource efficiency and cost-savings. Saving the climate must be viewed as a competitiveness strategy!

4)      Internal Marked 2.0: The Commission suggested a re-launch of the Single Market last year which will include a number of initiatives to boost the Single Market, many of which will be negotiated during the Danish presidency. For a Danish government this agenda is closely linked to the overall EU strategy of shifting the economy towards a more sustainable pattern. It makes no sense to achieve an EU single market if it is not consistent with the purpose of achieving a more sustainable and solidarity-based economy. This requires strong actions to be taken in five main areas: boosting innovation, protecting citizens and consumers, developing the services of general interest, levying sufficient financial means and ensuring transparency.

5)      Denmark’s position in the EU: Our new government has inherited quite a lot of bad cases from the former government:  The border/custom-control case, the opt-outs and the stubborn request for a budget-discount are just some of the bad cases that have contributed to placing Denmark among the “enfant terrible” in the EU. We need to do away with the hopeless provincialism and introversion which has too often prevailed in Denmark – the Danish People’s Party as the foremost champion of the mentality. A new government will open up Denmark to the world again and make sure we act with competence and constructive in the EU and on the global scene in the future.

The Presidency provides an opportunity for Denmark to set the agenda and influence EU cooperation. A presidency might be a kind of “secretariat” for the Union” and serve as a moderator. But the presidency is also a political engine that can influence the big agendas. Right now we face the most severe financial crisis in decades, solidarity is threatened, our welfare systems are under heavy pressure and there is lack of political leadership. Denmark can play an important role in bringing the EU forward.